Heathrow suspends operations after drone spotted near airfield

9 January 2019 (Last Updated January 9th, 2019 12:29)

London’s Heathrow Airport temporarily halted all departing flights as a safety measure after a drone was spotted flying near the airfield.

Heathrow suspends operations after drone spotted near airfield
Drone sighting forced Heathrow Airport to temporarily suspend operations. Credit: Mitch Nielsen on Unsplash.

London’s Heathrow Airport temporarily halted all departing flights as a safety measure after a drone was spotted flying near the airfield.

A Heathrow spokeswoman told the BBC that it was a ‘precautionary measure’ to ‘prevent any threat to operational safety.’

Law enforcement agencies including the police, transport chiefs and the military were called in to investigate the incident. Flights were resumed about an hour later after safety assurances had been made.

The spokeswoman confirmed that Heathrow is working with air traffic control and the Metropolitan Police following the incident.

“We are deploying significant resources, both in terms of officers and equipment, to monitor the airspace around Heathrow.”

She added: “We continue to monitor this situation and apologise to any passengers that were affected by this disruption.”

Sky News reported that the airport deployed a drone tracking radar in response to the sighting to stop the devices from flying in the banned area. The radar is being operated by the RAF over the airfield.

Met Police Commander Stuart Cundy told media sources: “We are deploying significant resources, both in terms of officers and equipment, to monitor the airspace around Heathrow and to quickly detect and disrupt any illegal drone activity.”

The latest incident at Heathrow Airport follows similar drone sightings near Gatwick Airport last month that caused widespread disruption and led to the cancellation of approximately 1,000 flights.

Around 140,000 passengers were affected over the Christmas period.

Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports have subsequently announced that they will acquire military-grade anti-drone equipment to deal with illegal drone flights near airfields.